Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Earth But Cloaks Your Heaven

Last year, my mom shared with me Fra Giovanni Giocondo's beautiful Christmas Eve letter to his friend, Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi, written in 1513 AD. On this eve of welcoming the birth of our Savior, I wanted to share it with you.

I salute you. I am your friend, and my love for you goes deep.  There is nothing I can give you which you have not. But there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take. No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant.
Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. There is radiance and glory in darkness, could we but see.  And to see, we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver. But we, judging its gifts by their covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering, and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love by wisdom, with power. Welcome it, grasp it, and you touch the angel's hand that brings it to you.

Everything we call a trial, a sorrow or a duty, believe me, that angel's hand is there. The gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Your joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Life is so full of meaning and purpose, so full of beauty beneath its covering, that you will find earth but cloaks your heaven. Courage then to claim it; that is all! But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are pilgrims together, wending through unknown country home.

Merry, merry Christmas from my home to yours.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Sometimes, Christmas Is Hard

Today, someone posted this song by Mark Schultz on Facebook:

And, even though my grandmothers have been gone for a long time, it brought up such a wave of loneliness and grief that it quite took my breath away. I know the holiday season is hard for a lot of people, and I just wanted to say - I'm praying for you. I'm praying for you to find joy, and to feel peace, even as you grieve your loss.

If I lived near my family, I'd probably try to get my sister and mom together to talk about my grandmas. Unfortunately, I don't live near them, so I cope as best I can, mostly with Diet Coke and chocolate. I do try to remind myself that when someone we love dies, they leave a hole in our hearts the size of the love they took with them. My grandmas left big holes. I try to remember the things I loved about them, things that made them the beautiful women they were, rather than focusing on how sad I feel. 

So, that is my encouragement for you. I know how hard the holidays can be. I do. If you're missing someone, try to remember happy things about them. Talk with someone else who's missing them too, if you can. Maybe write things down as they come to you. I know my children love to hear about my grandmas, and I love to tell them stories about them. 

Merry, merry Christmas to you. Know that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, is with you, and that I'm praying for you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Parenting Unchained: You Shall Know The Truth

This post contains affiliate links.

I have been tremendously blessed with some "imaginary friends" in my parenting journey, many of whom have turned into real-life friends. These amazing people showed me how to change from a punitive parenting style to a grace-based style of parenting that focused more on training the hearts of my children and applying natural consequences. By the time my third child came along, I felt pretty confident that I could parent a baby, toddler, and preschooler. I was even doing pretty well with my elementary-aged girls. Now my girls have become teenagers, and I find parenting a 7-year-old boy to be exceptionally challenging some days. Suddenly, I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing - again - and am back to really needing some help!

I was intrigued by what I heard about a new book by Dr. James D. Dempsey, titled Parenting Unchained: Overcoming the Ten Deceptions that Shackle Christian Parents. I was delighted to be chosen as part of the review team.

Dr. Dempsey is a pastor, and has a passion for training parents. In his book, he sets out ten lies parents often believe about parenting:
  • It's all about your kids; your character doesn't matter.
  • You're capable; you can do this.
  • God only cares about rules.
  • You can be a parent without investing much time.
  • Teaching the right information is enough.
  • Why and how you discipline doesn't matter - just make them obey.
  • You don't need to talk about your faith.
  • Children should choose their life course (you don't need to help them).
  • It's all about consistency (you don't need to adapt).
  • Life should be easy.
Do any of those sound familiar? At one time or another, I've tried them all. Remember the old saying, "Do as I say, not as I do?" That seems to cover many of these, and as I know from being a child and hearing that, it really doesn't fly. When I first started homeschooling my children, a wiser mom than I said, "People think homeschooling is all about the children, but it's really about growing the mama." She was so right. Parenting is a tough gig for anyone, but when your children are with you all day, every day, your sin is constantly visible to them, front and center. I have more opportunities to lose my temper, to contradict myself, to fail to keep my word... yeah. It's not for the faint of heart, that's for sure.

As Dr. Dempsey discusses each of the ten deceptions, he points out what the truth is, by using examples from Scripture. There are also study questions and action steps that go along with each one. For example, he suggests keeping a notebook on the spiritual truths we learn through parenting. He also asks us to look at our experience with our own parents, in order to be able to recognize how our past affects our present with our own children. I have found that to be a very helpful exercise.

What Dr. Dempsey does in this book is show that parents can learn a lot about parenting from the Bible, and not just from the verses that specifically mention parents and children. There is much to be learned in how God parented the children of Israel, and in how Jesus taught and prepared His disciples.

I have struggled in many areas of life with the need to be intentional. I remember taking a class on financial management, and learned that I not only needed to be intentional about finances, but about my marriage and about parenting, too. I was, frankly, overwhelmed. I didn't even know where to start! I had been muddling through, day by day, thinking if I tried my best, it would be enough. I have learned, though, that in order to be able to do my best, I have to be intentional about what I'm doing, and that means constantly learning and adapting as my children grow and change.

This book is an easy read, and yet challenges me to remember how critical my job as a parent is. It's an excellent resource to keep what's important at the forefront of my thinking all the time. It's helping me be aware, to pay attention, to keep my focus on the Lord and therefore be listening to His guidance as I raise my children. I hope you'll take a look at it! It's a worthy read.

THROUGH FRIDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2014, Parenting Unchained is available for Kindle for $0.99! The paperback version is available from Amazon for $12.38, also. I like the print version, myself, for underlining and taking notes.